March 12, 2004
Digest: A judge may comment upon a case no longer in the judicial process but must do so in a dignified, discreet and impartial manner without indicating a predisposition in future cases.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.2(A), 100.3(B)(8); Opinions 95-48 (Vol. XIII); 88-106 (Vol. II).
A judge inquires as to the propriety of commenting for publication with respect to a recent landlord-tenant decision of the judge.
The case, published in the New York Law Journal, was accepted by the official reporter and was commented upon recently in a private publication which reports on landlord-tenant cases. The judge is of the opinion that the editor of this private publication has “misinterpreted some of the holdings and facts” and would like to respond for publication. The judge informs the Committee that the case at issue is not on appeal and the time to take an appeal has expired.
While a judge may not comment upon a pending matter before the judge (22 NYCRR 100.3 [B]), the judge may do so once the judicial process in the case is completed (Opinion 95-48 [Vol. XIII]). However, any comment by the inquiring judge with respect to the case at issue must by discreet. Section 100.2 (A) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct states that judges shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary (22 NYCRR 100.2 [A]). Therefore, comments by the judge about the case at issue should be made in a dignified manner and limited to the facts in the record, keeping also in mind particular sensitivity involved in landlord-tenant litigation. Further, the judge should be careful not to express an opinion that would indicate any predisposition on the judge’s part with respect to a particular case or type of case, or which otherwise might cast doubt on the judge’s impartiality. Opinion 88-106 Vol. II.